April 17, 2012

Extreme Makeover: Washington Edition

I read the following (parts and pieces of a larger article) on CNN yesterday:

How about an ice skating rink on the National Mall, just a stone's throw from the Lincoln Memorial? Or a new, expanded outdoor amphitheater next to the Washington Monument, where people sit on the grass and watch a performance?

These ideas and more have been submitted by designers in a competition to spruce up the giant park at the center of the District of Columbia.

The non-profit Trust for the National Mall has asked for proposals that would improve how people use the park, and would add amenities like restaurants and bathrooms.

The Trust says no taxpayer money would be involved. Instead, it is aiming to pay for the renovations with private donations, and it hopes to raise $350 million with the help of former first lady Laura Bush.

Now, anyone who's been to DC in the last five years understands that it's an awesome but slightly shabby city. The Mall - seriously one of the most impressive places in the world - is starting to show its age. And lots of folks who live in and around the city have been pressuring the powers that be for a little cleanup. But as I scrolled past the story and on to the comments, I really got scared. What I saw weren't just the objections of normal people but partisan fanaticism. And racism. Some excerpts:

- DC should be abandoned and a new Capitol built in the center of the country, safe from Iranian nuclear weapons. The new Capitol could be the size of a Walmart Supercenter if Senators and Representatives were required to stay in their districts; with teleconferencing, a national meeting house is not needed.

- This is really just a plot to take away space that people use to congregate en mass and protest.

- Why spruce up DC when the rest of america is becoming a rundown dump?

- the best move to improve dc is to tear it down

- ....paid for with cash donations. So it will be just like buying votes but instead of getting something like Obama care we'll get a mall to glorify Obama's new America with hope and change. Were's the big grassy area going to be? You can't pound tent pegs into concrete.

- They forgot to pencil in all the police barricades that keep honest Americans out from enjoying our capital... and all the police vehicles and on foot police that basically move you around like cattle when you are just trying to enjoy the scenery. I have been down to DC several times trying to enjoy the beauty of our national mall with my wife... every time turned away and closed off by authorities with no explanation. Ehh, maybe next year if Mitt gets in they will relax a bit and let tax payers enjoy the stuff they pay for.

- All the different nationalities? When I visited DC all I saw were the 'rainbow shades' of black.

Look, I know that commenting on CNN is like writing a review on Amazon. You speak up because you're passionate and that passion usually takes overwhelmingly positive or negative form. I get that. But it scares me when people seen an issue like cleaning up the Mall - in the capital of this country - and installing some bathrooms as a partisan political conspiracy designed to shut them up. Or, worse, as a tool of some mythical black power or communist movement. And that - in my most dire and depressing of moods - makes me feel like we're on the brink of some rift that will be all but impossible to recover from.

I cross my fingers every day that there are enough people on both sides of the political aisle committed to working together and continuing the journey this country and her citizens undertook over 200 years ago. But I'm not always convinced that's the case.

Posted by Chris at April 17, 2012 7:28 AM

"Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain't that a big enough majority in any town?"

- Mark Twain

Posted by: Aaron at April 17, 2012 8:41 AM

This is (one reason) why we can't have nice things.

Posted by: Fraulein N at April 17, 2012 9:28 AM

I'm not always convinced either. Sad.

Posted by: Heather at April 17, 2012 10:18 AM

I hadn't heard about this. I need to go read the story. This is sad.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at April 17, 2012 5:35 PM

I could write an article about how cute kittens and puppies are on a major news site and, within 20 comments or so, the string would descend into political fighting. The absolutism of political hatred in this country today frustrates me to no end. As the Fraulein said above, this is why we can't have nice things. Today, if you're on one side and you agree with someone on the other side that it might be a good idea to renovate the Mall, someone will paint it as if this one act means you've totally abandon your longstanding position on issue X. Therefore, nothing worthwhile ever gets done.

Posted by: Foggy Dew at April 19, 2012 11:03 AM

In my late 30's I've come to side with my late grandmother who seemed to think 3/4 of the world was, "on dope".

Posted by: Karen at April 19, 2012 10:07 PM

Scary side of the internet.

Posted by: Heather at April 20, 2012 10:24 AM

This is the most scary, of all the scary realities you post on your observations of what goes on in the news...

I am annoyed with you for pulling my head out of the ground to the reality of the people who also get to vote; and, with the availability of everything on the internet, get heard.

It is so, so frightening... and I feel so helpless that there is nothing I can do but shake my head, and put it back in the ground.

I will be reminded again, on election day when the country is colored in red and blue, and the reality is again obvious and so different to what I would like to hope for the country.

Posted by: Lisa at April 22, 2012 9:43 AM